George Gurdjieff


George Gurdjieff : biography

13 January 1866 – 29 October 1949

Various pupils of Gurdjieff and his direct students have formed other groups. Willem Nyland, one of Gurdjieff’s closest students and an original founder and trustee of The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York, left to form his own groups in the early 1960s. Jane Heap was sent to London by Gurdjieff, where she led groups until her death in 1964. Louise Goepfert March, who became a pupil of Gurdjieff’s in 1929, started her own groups in 1957 and founded the Rochester Folk Art Guild in the Finger Lakes region of New York State; her efforts were closely linked to the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York. Independent groups were formed and led by John G. Bennett and Mrs. Staveley.

Gurdjieff student Lord Pentland connects the Gurdjieff group-work with the later rise of encounter groups. Groups also often meet to prepare for demonstrations or performances to which the public is invited.

Gurdjieff’s pupils

Gurdjieff’s notable pupils include: (click "His Pupils" on the left side)

Jeanne de Salzmann, originally a teacher of dance, recognized as his deputy by many of Gurdjieff’s other pupils. She was responsible for transmitting the movements and teachings of Gurdjieff through the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York, the Gurdjieff Institute of Paris, and other groups.

Willem Nyland was considered by some to be Gurdjieff’s closest pupil, after Jeanne de Salzmann; he was appointed for an undisclosed special task by Gurdjieff in the USA. At present, Mr. Nyland’s groups exist in small concentrations across the United States, most notably at two locations, one termed "The Barn" in rural New York, and another termed "The Land" in Northern California. These groups are thought to be unique amongst recognized Gurdjieff groups, in that they are the only groups to have recorded their original meetings, resulting in an audio library in excess of many thousands of hours, featuring almost exclusively talks by a first-hand student of Gurdjieff. Many of these tapes have also been transcribed and indexed according to subject matter, but neither the tapes nor transcriptions are available to the general public.

Henry John Sinclair, 2nd Baron Pentland was a pupil of Ouspensky for many years during the 1930s and 1940s. He began to study intensely with Gurdjieff in 1948. He was appointed by Gurdjieff as his representative to publish Beelzebub’s Tales, and then to lead the Work in North America. He became president of the Gurdjieff Foundation when it was established in New York in 1953, and remained in that position until his death in 1984.

Jane Heap, an American publisher, met Gurdjieff during his 1924 visit to New York, and set up a Gurdjieff study group at her apartment in Greenwich Village. In 1925, she moved to Paris to study at Gurdjieff’s Institute, and in 1935 to London to set up a new study group.

Peter D. Ouspensky, a Russian esoteric philosopher, met Gurdjieff in 1916 and spent the next few years studying with him, later forming his own independent groups which also focused on the Fourth Way. He wrote In Search of the Miraculous about his experiences with Gurdjieff.

Thomas de Hartmann, a Russian composer and prominent student and collaborator of Gurdjieff, first met Gurdjieff in 1916 in Saint Petersburg. From 1917 to 1929 he was a pupil and confidant of Gurdjieff. During that time, at Gurdjieff’s Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man near Paris, de Hartmann transcribed and co-wrote much of the music that Gurdjieff collected and used for his Movements exercises, as well as additional music not intended to accompany Movements. Olga de Hartmann was Gurdjieff’s personal secretary for many years, and collected many of Gurdjieff’s early talks in the book Views from the Real World (1973).

In 1924, Alfred Richard Orage, a British intellectual, the editor of the magazine, The New Age, was appointed by Gurdjieff as the assistant of another old follower of Gurdjieff to lead study groups in America, but due to Gurdjieff’s nearly fatal automobile accident, the one who was supposed to lead the groups never went to US and Orage decided to lead the groups on his own initiation.